This is a photo of my grandfather at his church many years ago. His hands are one of the memories I have of him. They seemed very large to me. My grandfather was a hard worker. An ethic that has now passed through several generations beyond him. His hands allowed him to have many jobs over the years to financially provide for his family, they allowed him skill and pleasure in the wood working shop, but even better yet they allowed him to serve the Lord in and out of his church. When I came across this old photo I was struck by the hands at rest yet seemingly ready for the next task with the background sign of "God is Love". A sign and a symbol of what I believe people were able to see through my grandfather's work.
This weekend I traveled across the country to celebrate the end of my grandfather's earthly life. He passed on before Christmas at the age of 96. As I left the studio on Friday I pondered about what colors and symbols I might encounter at the memorial service. End of life rituals and celebrations intrigue me because there seems to be great variety in what is comforting and what connects those to their faith at this time. I see the variety as a gift. I am visual (no surprise) so of course I found the symbols in and out of worship comforting.
The family was nourished by conversation and food at a meal prior to worship. It was prepared by the hands of a group at my grandfather's church. These were hands that worked in the kitchen with happy hearts out of respect for the work that my grandfather had felt was so important for so many years.
I saw hands providing comfort. My cousins hand patted his mother's shoulder as his arm wrapped around her while we waited to go into worship. My mother's hand gave a loving pat to my father as they walked together into the sanctuary.
The hands of the pastor were expressive and emotional as she shared comforting scripture and personal stories of how my grandfather had ministered to her while she was with his congregation.
And I appreciated the hands that had used fiber arts to enhance the worship space. The still present Christmas tree was embellished with Jesse symbols; symbolic of the revelation of grace and the faithfulness of God. A banner of simple blocks of white and gold even though meant for Christmas was also a reminder of God's brilliance and the purity of Christ's life and resurrection. And the icing on the cake was the pastor's stole that proclaimed "JOY" in a way that nobody could have missed the message.
As we left the church to travel to where we were to rest for the night, God's hand created one more gift for the day...
...one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen. The magnificent and powerful colors enrobed us, as a symbol of God's love.